By Kevin McGuire
After topping the rival Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night in overtime, the Philadelphia Eagles return home to host the struggling Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles may have established some momentum at a good time with a trio of winnable games in front of them next, starting with a Miami team that has already fired its head coach and lost a key defensive player for the season.
The Miami Dolphins will limp into Lincoln Financial Field riding a two-game losing streak after being defeated by former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and the Buffalo Bills in division play. Miami opened the season with a win in Washington, but then lost three straight games against the Jaguars, Bills and Jets. After falling to 1-3, the Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin and handed the coaching duties over to Dan Campbell. The coaching change appeared to give Miami a spark, with two straight wins against Tennessee and Houston, but the Dolphins returned to their losing ways the last two weeks in division play against the Patriots and Bills. In those two losses, Miami was outscored 69-24.
The Eagles have won three straight games against the AFC East franchise dating back to 2003, and four of the last five since 1996. The Dolphins once held a decisive edge in the all-time series before that and still are clinging to a 7-6 lead in the series. The last time the two teams met in Philadelphia, A.J. Feeley replaced an injured Donovan McNabb (sprained right ankle) and Brian Westbrook rushed for 148 yards in a 17-7 victory, which dropped Miami to 0-10.
Dolphins on Offense
The Dolphins have floated along with an average offense all season long. The Miami passing offense is ranked 17th in the NFL with throwing for 2,237 yards and 13 touchdowns, but Ryan Tannehill tends to be good for a turnover at times with nine intercepted passes in eight games. Miami’s offensive line also struggles to protect their quarterback, as evidenced by Tannehill being sacked 23 times this season. The Dolphin’s top two wide receivers, Rishard Matthews and Jarvis Landry, have put up pretty even numbers so far. The two have combined for six touchdowns.
Miami’s running game ranks 21st in the NFL with Lamar Miller leading the ground attack with 478 yards and five rushing touchdowns. As a team, Miami has lost just one of three fumbles. Two of those fumbles have been Tannehill having the ball knocked loose.
Dolphins on Defense
Miami operates in a standard 4-3 defense. The addition of Ndamukong Suh to the defensive line was a solid one in the offseason, but the Dolphins defense is still in the middle of the league when it comes to sacks. Suh has picked up three of the team’s sacks this season, but it is Cameron Wake who leads the team with seven sacks. Unfortunately for Miami, Wake’s season is done with a torn Achilles two weeks ago against New England. If there is one thing the Eagles should be able to thrive on against Miami, it should be running the football. The Eagles have been playing very well on the ground over the last few games, and this week they will play the NFL’s 31st-ranked rushing defense. The Dolphins have allowed 142.1 rushing yards per game and forced just one fumble.
Miami’s Players to Watch
WR Jarvis Landry: The Eagles drafted Jordan Matthews in the 2014 NFL Draft. Nineteen picks later, the Dolphins drafted Jarvis Landry out of LSU. A year-and-a-half in, it would be difficult to argue the Eagles did not get the better of the two, although Landry has shown an ability to pick up yards after the catch this season.
S Reshad Jones: Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford needs to be careful when a ball is thrown in the area covered by Dolphins safety Reshad Jones. Jones is tied for the team-lead in interceptions with two (tied with Shippensburg alum and Philadelphia native Brent Grimes), and has returned each for a touchdown.
After getting out of Dallas with an overtime victory on Sunday night, the Eagles pulled back to .500 on the year with three favorable matchups coming up next. That begins with a home game against the Miami Dolphins, a team in some disarray, a shaky defense and an offense that should be capable of making some plays against the Birds, but not enough in the clutch. This week should see the Eagles use Miami’s poor run defense to their advantage with DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews each getting carries. Even Darren Sproles could get in the mix and make some things happen.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.